At a certain point, baseball is going to have to make the move to some kind of automated strike zone.
There’s just no real need for that particular human element; the addition of replay is an admission that umpires are fallible, and that technology allows for outcomes to be decided more fairly on the field. If we’re allowing for some calls to be reviewed (and indeed reviewing some things automatically), it’s so weird that baseball doesn’t insist on allowing reviews or technological aid to umpires for calling balls and strikes, the hardest part of their job.
Today’s Cubs-Brewers game at Wrigley offered the latest example of how one call on one pitch can have a huge impact on a result. Trailing by a run and with Josh Hader having issued a leadoff walk, Jake Marisnick took what should have been ball one. Except home plate Cory Blaser called it a strike, which led to a quick ejection for Cubs manager David Ross.
Judge for yourself, if you want:
— Justin Groc (@jgroc) April 24, 2021
This brutal strike call just got David Ross tossed. pic.twitter.com/KYOuOVcrC8
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) April 24, 2021
The Cubs booth was quick to note how different things are with a 1-0 count after the opening walk, vs Hader being gifted a strike he hadn’t actually thrown. A few batters later and the game was over, with the Brewers hanging on.
Yep. Especially against the highest strikeout guy in the world. https://t.co/FMJUAzRFHE
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) April 24, 2021
This isn’t a post meant to bag on just the one bad call, or to say Blaser is bad at his job. After the game, Ross himself noted that Blaser had a good zone all day, but this was an outlier. And that’s exactly why we should be looking at calls like this one; Blaser himself can’t be happy that this one pitch will overshadow how well he’d called the game on the whole.
Cubs manager David Ross said he has a "ton of respect" for HP ump Cory Blaser. Said the ump's zone was consistent all day until the high strike call on Marisnick in the 9th.
"That looked extremely high," Ross said. "That was a bad call. I mean, plain and simple." pic.twitter.com/qMYKl4paM1
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 24, 2021
One factor in why there’s no real push for strike zone automation is the umpire’s union itself, of course, which can’t be discounted. But considering MLB’s willingness to push through changes integral to competition (extra innings rules being a prime example), there’s no real reason to not push for it as quickly as possible.